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Power from the Sun: Possibilities, Realities, and Career Paths in the Solar Energy Industry

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

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Course Description

The solar energy industry is a wide-ranging, multidisciplinary, and fast-growing field that offers a multitude of opportunities for people interested in advancing this promising renewable energy technology. This course will guide you in exploring this work, identifying which aspects of the industry are a good match for your interests, and designing an educational path to pursue your goals. You will experience virtual field trips to see a typical day-in-the-life of people working in areas as diverse as research and development, system planning, manufacturing, solar panel sales and installation, and government funding agencies. These windows into the field will bring to life the solar technologies, science, policy issues, and practices shaping the industry today. By the end of the course, you will have a rich understanding of the scope of the solar energy industry, and how you can take part in the field.

In this course you will:

  • Learn chemical, mechanical, and electrical engineering principles that enable a solar cell, panel, and system to work
  • Meet researchers in Brown’s School of Engineering and Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation who are currently studying perovskites, a class of material they hope can be used to produce highly efficient, low-cost solar cells
  • Understand how solar energy technologies are evaluated for success
  • Learn why solar energy is critical to our future energy needs as well as challenges faced by the industry
  • Explore solar energy’s full value chain in depth, from sand to silicon to wafers to cells to panels to systems to transmitted power
  • With an understanding of the industry history, forecast future trends in the technology
  • Debate current topics in federal and state energy policy
  • Investigate leading university programs in solar energy, and which majors are best suited for different careers.

Learn more about your instructor for this course.

Course Requirements:

Time commitment: The first week of your online course serves as the course orientation, during which you will get to know Canvas (Brown's learning management system), review course expectations and strategies for your success, learn about your instructor, and help us to learn a bit about you. These activities should take you just a few hours to complete.

The following week you will begin working with your instructor and classmates on the course itself. To be successful in this course, you must have reliable internet access, and will be expected to participate multiple times each week. Plan to spend approximately 10 hours per week on coursework.


  • Computer with reliable, high-speed internet connection
  • Up-to-date Internet browser supported by Canvas, Brown's learning management system
  • Headphones, earbuds or speakers
  • Webcam and microphone
  • Adobe Flash Player browser plugin (Course elements may require Flash and will not work on an iPad.)
  • Word Processing application to save and open Microsoft Office formats (.doc,.docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx)
  • Courses can also be accessed on tablets and mobile devices. These devices can be used as supplemental access points in order to complete most coursework.

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